Scott McDonald Exclusive Interview
It's been one hell of year for Scott McDonald...
It-s been one hell of year for Scott McDonald and the Qantas Socceroo striker is only just coming to terms with how good it has been. But possibly the real test for him as a player will be the next year to see if he can back it up and he is more than ready for the challenge.
About 15 months ago, McDonald was coming to the end of his contract at Motherwell and was wondering where his career would take him. When Celtic manager Gordon Strachan came a calling, there was no second thoughts for the Melbourne boy, who grew supporting the team with the famous green and white hoops.
Strachan knew McDonald well from his days at Southampton, where the Australian was on the fringes of the first team, but never quite cracked and he was eventually let go. But consistent performances and goals for Motherwell, saw Strachan come a calling again and the second time around, McDonald has made every post a winner.
31 goals in total, including 26 in the Scottish Premier League, a match-winning goal against AC Milan in the Champions League, were highlights, but best of all was winning the title when it all appeared lost with about 5 games to go.
The 24-year-old is still pinching himself with all that has happened and hoping to emulate that success achieved at Celtic with the Socceroos as well.
“Yeah, I-ve had time to reflect now and it-s been a whirlwind of a season. It-s hard to believe how well it has went, but I-ve now got to look forward to next season; it-s probably going to be doubly hard, but it-s something I am going to look forward to and hopefully we can go out there and win another Championship and a few more trophies next season.”
Next season though will not be an easy one for him and he knows that much more will be on him as Celtic-s main threat in front of goal. But it-s a challenge he is up for and hopes will be the making of him as a player.
“I hope so,” when I asked if next season would be the making of him as a player. “Every player wants to do well every season and I am no different in that category. All I can do is work hard, like I did this season and hopefully the rewards will come my way again.
“Obviously it-s a mind-set as well; everyone thinks it-s going to be harder the next season, but you need to get that out, start afresh and work hard and be as hungry as you were then and I certainly am hungry for more success on a personal note and my mind team also.”
While he admits, much of his success was down to having a great team around him; he concedes that it was his hunger to prove a few people wrong, who didn-t believe he was the right person for Celtic that helped a lot.
“There was hunger to go out there and do well, because going to the club, no one expected me to be a regular starter or to score as many goals as I did. So from the start I had a point to prove.
“Probably coming to the start of the second season, I am going to have even more of a point to prove that it was not just a one-off season that I had. You-ve got to go out there and do it again and if I can do that, it could, as you said before, be the making of me. Hopefully that is the case and there is many more good time to come.”
One of his highlights from the season was playing in the biggest and best club competition in the world - the Champions League and one he will no doubt be looking forward to again.
“It-s a massive thing; when I first came to Celtic, apart from winning the league that was the biggest thing for me and playing against the best players in the world. I was lucky enough to play against AC Milan and also Barcelona in a two-legged round of 16.
“It was great to be matched up against these world class players and the more you play in these games, the more you believe you belong there and hopefully that-s more the case next season and I get more experience at that level under my belt.
“I think that can only help me on the international stage also, because it-s probably the biggest thing football wise, apart from the World Cup, playing Champions League football.”
Obviously one of the things he would like to bring across to the national team is his goals and after seven appearances, of which most have been off the bench, he is yet to register a goal. It-s something he would like break during these qualifiers and is confident he can do and then keep on scoring.
“Obviously I would have liked to have scored already, but it-s not happened yet,” he said. “It-s not something I am not too concerned about myself and if I keep working hard, once you get one, the goals will come. That was pretty much the case at Celtic; my first four or five games I didn-t score and then the floodgates opened and I hope that can be the case with my country also, because it-s obviously important for me to do well for Australia.”
Getting a start against Qatar on Saturday night would obviously help and for a striker nothing breeds confidence more than starting and scoring. But he knows it will be tough with the conditions expected to be hotter in Doha than the game against Iraq last week.
“Obviously it would be nice to play my role and start from the opening whistle; hopefully break my duck as well and get us qualified for the next stage. I don-t think it-s time to panic yet; we are still in control of our own destiny and as long as we are then I think we are in a good position.
“We know it-s going to be a tough game over in Qatar; apparently it-s meant to be even hotter than what it is here in Dubai, but we are slowly getting more acclimatized, if you can do that.
“Obviously we already played Qatar and beat them 3-0, but we know it-s going to be a different game coming up to the next game; they have a few players coming back as well. It-s going to be a very tough game and hopefully we can get over the line and get the result we need.”
McDonald and the players are acutely aware of how important this game is, with a win over the Qatari-s ensuring qualification to the next stage of qualifiers.
“A draw might be a good result, if things go our way in the other game, but we are not just looking to go out there and get a draw; because in realistic terms that might not be enough.
“I-d like to think, we can go out in an attack-minded frame and go and finish it off and look forward to the next qualifying campaign.”
For McDonald this has been his first real long camp with the boys and its something he has really enjoyed and obviously wants to be part of again in the years to come.
“Personally for me its been great, just to get to know the boys, not just on the football pitch but on a personal level as well. You get to know people, make friends, which is great and there is a lot of people here that you have looked up to through your career; envied; wanted to be like and wanted to be a part of what they have been a part of.
Many of these were guys helped get Australia to the World Cup the last time and all the boys did a tremendous job in Germany; did the country proud and hopefully I can be part of it this time around.”